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Holloway: Coker an inspiration for Flowery Branch

Game of the week: Gainesville hosts Heritage in big region test

East Hall at White County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: White County Stadium, Cleveland

Coaches: East Hall, Bryan Gray; White County, Bill Ballard

Records: East Hall (2-2, 0-1 Region 7-AAA); White County (3-1, 1-0 Region 7-AAA)

Key players: East Hall, FB/LB Edward Vergara (5-5, 162 Jr.), OL/DL Devonte Benton (6-5, 263 Sr.), RB/CB Dre Brawner (5-8, 140 Jr.). White County, QB Will Brock (6-3, 198 Sr.); WR/FS Clay Rider (6-0, 175 Sr.); RB/LB Dalton Whitfield (6-3, 232 Sr.).

Outlook: The clock may not stop much in this matchup between two of the area’s most run-heavy offenses.
The Vikings, coming off of a 22-21 loss to Johnson last week, have five players who have rushed for over 100 yards this season, led by Vergara (196 yards and three touchdowns) and Austin Mahaffey (172 and three).

White County, coming off a 21-19 loss to Blessed Trinity, has scored an average of 29.8 points per game on the strength of leaders Brock (50 carries for 285 yards and five touchdowns) and Whitfield (25 carries for 127 yards and one score.

Brock is also 19 for 42 passing for 342 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

Both teams also have standout defensive players, including East Hall’s Xavier Hughey (39.5 tackles, four for loss) and White County’s Will Stonecypher, who leads the area with eight sacks.

Prediction: WHITE COUNTY. The Warriors’ offense has been more explosive, and the defense (allowing 14 points per game) has been better.

Chestatee at Stephens County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Reservation, Stephens County

Coaches: Chestatee, Stan Luttrell; Stephens County, Travis Noland

Records: Chestatee (2-1, 1-0 Region 8-AAAA); Stephens County (4-0, 1-0)

Key players: Chestatee, RB Quan Clark (5-10, 188 Sr.), RB A.J. Sijiye (5-11, 150 So.), TE/DE Cody Humphries (6-2, 190 Jr.). Stephens County, RB Chaz Thornton (5-8, 185 Sr.), WR T’omas Colbert (6-0, 184 Sr.), QB Dionte Mayfield (5-11, 175 Sr.).

Outlook: Chestatee caught the attention of Region 8-AAAA last week with a 57-56 double overtime win over Eastside, an expected playoff contender. If the War Eagles win this week, they’ll have the attention of the state.

Fifth-ranked Stephens County boasts a prolific, balanced offense led by Thornton, a Division-I prospect with 687 rushing yards on the season. The Indians also have the ability to score quickly, as they proved in last week’s 61-20 win over Walnut Grove when Colbert finished with three receptions — all touchdowns — for 215 yards and returned a punt 50 yards for a score.

Colbert leads the state with 690 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on 19 receptions.

The War Eagles will counter with their own explosive offense, which ran for 553 yards last week. Clark led the way with a school-record 307 yards, and Sijiye added 135 on the ground. After last week’s win, which was Chestatee’s first region win since 2009, the War Eagles are second in the area, scoring 39.7 points per game.

Prediction: STEPHENS COUNTY. The War Eagles haven’t been able to come up with consistent stops on defense so far this season, and this may be the most talented offense they’ll face this season.

Flowery Branch at Salem

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Evans Stadium, Conyers

Coaches: Flowery Branch, Chris Griffin; Salem, John Starr

Records: Flowery Branch (2-2, 2-0 Region 8-AAAAA); Salem (2-2, 1-1)

Key players: Flowery Branch, RB Justin Curry (5-11, 180 So.), LB Jacob Allen (6-1, 237 Sr.), QB Jackson McDonald (5-11, 172 Jr.). Salem, QB/S Damian Gordon (Sr.), S Licash Lackey (Jr.), LB/RB Ahmad Mitchell (5-6, 168 Sr.)

Outlook: After a tough start to the season in nonregion play, the Falcons look to be right back to where they were last year in the region, off to a 2-0 start.

Salem stands in the way of Flowery Branch going over .500 overall this season. The Seminoles held off Winder-Barrow 22-20 last week, handing the Bulldoggs their 27th consecutive defeat. Gordon was easily the key player, recording all three touchdowns, two on offense out of the Wing-T, and one on an interception return.

He’ll need some help to keep up with a Flowery Branch offense that has scored a combined 92 points in its last two games, including a 47-14 win over Loganville last week. McDonald has powered the offensive explosion, and is now 57 for 85 with 534 yards passing for five touchdowns, and 275 yards rushing and five more scores for the season.

Curry has keyed the rushing attack, with 480 yards — third in the area — on 65 attempts and three touchdowns, and Jamaad Stephens leads all receivers with 15 receptions for 195 yards.

Salem, however, has yet to allow 40 or more points against.

Flowery Branch has, against Northside-Warner Robins in the opener, but since then the Falcons defense has held each team to under 30 points. Allen leads the team, and is third in the area, with 47 tackles, including four for loss.

Prediction: FLOWERY BRANCH. Salem lacks the offense to keep up with the Falcons, who also have the defense to slow down the Seminoles’ limited attack.

North Hall at Dawson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tigers Stadium, Dawsonville

Coaches: North Hall, Bob Christmas; Dawson County, Jeff Lee.

Records: North Hall (2-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAA); Dawson County (3-1, 1-0).

Key players: North Hall, RB T.J. Tate (5-8, 165 Sr.); QB/DB Andrew Smith (5-8, 145 Jr.); QB Bradley Brown (6-2, 205 Sr.). Dawson County, QB Tyler Dominy (6-4, 178 Sr.); RB/LB Zack Martin (5-11, 225 Sr.); WR Chris Sayler (5-9, 160 Jr.).

Outlook: When the season started, this game was considered one crucial for both in the tight race for playoff spots in Region 7-AAA. Even if both end up making the postseason, which is certainly possible, it could go a long way to determine seeding.

The Tigers are Trojans have held up well so far this season. North Hall’s only loss was a nonregion outing two weeks ago when it let a lead slip away in the fourth quarter against Jefferson. The Trojans are led on offense by seniors Tate and Kevin Christmas, who each have 278 rushing yards.

And Dawson County has a region win under its belt already with a 42-0 win against East Hall on Aug. 24. Led by the senior quarterback Dominy (1,139 yards and 15 touchdowns), Dawson County is averaging 38 points per outing. Sayler (286 yards, four touchdowns), Bruce Clark (261 yards, four touchdowns) and Will Anglin (236 yards) are the top receiving targets for the Tigers.

The Tigers’ only loss came when it let a fourth-quarter lead slip away against Class AAAAAA’s North Forsyth on Sept. 7.

Though both schools are separated by only about 30 miles, it is the first meeting in school history, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.

Prediction: DAWSON COUNTY. The Tigers’ have more playmakers than the Trojans will be able to stop.

Fannin County at West Hall

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Spartans Field, Oakwood

Coaches: Fannin County, Greg Chambers; West Hall, Tony Lotti

Records: Fannin County (0-4, 0-1 Region 7-AAA); West Hall (2-2, 1-0)

Key players: Fannin County, RB Peyton Satterfield (6-2, 190 Jr.), QB Trevor Stone (6-1, 200 Jr.), WR Noah O’Neal (6-2, 180 Jr.). West Hall, West Hall, OL Blake Manning (6-6, 300 Sr.); QB Zach English (5-11, 175 Jr.); RB/LB Isaiah Rowe (6-2, 215 So.).

Outlook: West Hall has the chance to go over .500 for the first time since Oct. 2010 tonight in its second region game.

The Spartans held off Banks County, a state playoff team last season, 33-20 last week to even their season record at 2-2. Fannin County is coming off its bye week still looking for its first win.

West Hall’s turnaround this season can be attributed to a number of factors. In the first win the defense led the way in a 27-11 win, and last week the Spartans offense surpassed 30 points for the first time this season, continuing a trend that has seen the unit up its points total in each game this season.

English has been a big factor, having gone 30 for 69 passing for 473 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. Rowe has led the rushing attack, with 240 yards and four scores on 58 carries.

Special teams has been a factor on the scoreboard as well, with Kwon Williams accounting for 221 yards and a score on nine kick returns, good for a 24.6 average.

Prediction: WEST HALL. The Spartans have all the momentum after a big win and should be able to make it 2-0 in region play.

Buford at Banks County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Leopard Stadium, Homer

Coaches: Buford, Jess Simpson; Banks County, Philip Jones

Records: Buford (2-1, 0-0 Region 7-AAA); Banks County (1-3, 0-1 Region 7-AAA)

Key players: Buford, RB Dontravious Wilson (5-11, 215 Sr.), OL/DL Josh Cardiello (6-4, 285 Sr.), TE/LB Korie Rogers (6-2, 210 Jr.). Banks County, RB/DB Wes Faulkner (5-8, 180 Sr.), QB Tyler Hubbard (5-9, 180 Sr.), WR/DB Greg Cannon (6-0, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: It didn’t take Buford long to put a rare regular season loss in the past. A week after Gainesville dealt them their first loss prior to the playoffs since early 2010, the Wolves rolled over Hancock Central 43-0 on Sept. 14.

After a bye week last Friday, they return tonight seeking a fast start to region play and planning to avoid their second loss. History favors Buford in this regard; the fourth-ranked Wolves haven’t lost twice in the regular season since 1998.

Banks County enters the game on a three-game losing skid after falling to West Hall, 33-20, last week in its region opener. Faulkner leads the Leopards and is fourth in the area with 470 rushing yards, while Hubbard has accounted for more than 700 yards of offense and seven touchdowns. The problems for Banks County have come on defense, where the Leopards are allowing 28.3 points per game.

The Wolves will try to exploit that with a Wilson-led running game and a two-quarterback attack. After missing the Gainesville game due to injury, Wilson returned to run for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries against Hancock Central. Taylor Mitchell and Montgomery VanGorder have split time under center, and both have been effective, combining for 338 passing yards and no interceptions.

Prediction: BUFORD. The Wolves remain the favorite to win the region and take their first step toward that goal tonight.

Athens Academy at Lakeview Academy

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Jock Horner Field, Gainesville

Coaches: Athens Academy, Michael Gunn; Lakeview Academy, Matthew Gruhn

Records: Athens Academy (3-0, 0-0 Region 8-A); Lakeview (2-1, nonregion schedule)

Key players: Athens Academy, WR Eric Williams (Sr.); QB Austin Schulte (Jr.). Lakeview Academy, QB Ted Reynolds (6-1, 160 Sr.); RB/LB Trevor Price (5-10, 165 Sr.); WR/DB John Cox (6-0, 180 Sr.).

Outlook: Lakeview Academy is probably at the highest point in program history, despite last week’s loss to Pinecrest Academy. Before that, the Lions were 2-0 for the first time. Despite the loss, Reynolds had a good game last week, passing for 157 yards and rushing for 134. Price had 134 yards of offense and a touchdown for the Lions.

Tonight, Lakeview Academy faces Athens Academy, which is also on a hot streak.

The Spartans have won 5 of their last six dating back to last October. The only loss in that time was in the second round of the playoffs to Aquinas, 38-13, last November.

Prediction: ATHENS ACADEMY. The Spartans win out in a close battle with superior defense.

Riverside Military at Oglethorpe County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Patriot Stadium, Lexington

Coaches: Riverside Military, Gary Downs; Oglethorpe County, Larry Milligan

Records: Riverside Military (0-3, 0-1 Region 8-AA); Oglethorpe County (2-1, 0-0).

Key players: Riverside Military, QB Collin Pettell (6-4, 220 Jr.); OL/MLB John-Mark MacFarlane (5-11, 190 Jr.); ATH Adrian Humphrey (5-10, 170 Sr.). Oglethorpe County, QB Kendrick Presley (5-10, 190 Sr.); DL Casey Pacheco (6-0, 265 Sr.); DE Jay Fleming (6-1, 230 Jr.).

Outlook: Oglethorpe County is trying to get on track for its first playoff berth since 1998, while Riverside Military is searching desperately for its first victory.

Oglethorpe County has won back-to-back games for the first time since winning the final three games of the 2009 season. Meanwhile, Riverside Military has dropped three straight, after giving up an average of 42 per game.

Since losing its opener to Johnson, Oglethorpe County has gotten back on track with its ground-based attack. The Patriots average 245 rushing yards a game, while just 35 passing. That’s been good enough for an average of 33 points per game.

Presley is Oglethorpe County’s biggest offensive threat with 332 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He’s completed 7 of 13 pass attempts for one score. The Patriots scored a season-high 43 in a win last Friday against Fellowship Christian.

Prediction: OGLETHORPE COUNTY. The Patriots are rolling up the points with a simple ground game.

Jefferson at Greene County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Tiger Stadium, Greensboro

Coaches: Jefferson, T. McFerrin; Greene County, Robert Edwards

Records: Jefferson (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-AA); Greene County (0-3, 0-0)

Key players: Jefferson, QB Bryant Shirreffs (6-2, 215 Sr.), LB Wesley Simonton (6-0, 205 Sr.), LB Kody McDonald (5-11, 165 Sr.). Greene County, QB/DB Cory Brown (5-10, 160 Jr.), QB/DB Jared Miller (6-0, 175 Sr.), WR/DB Keyondre Wright (6-1, 170 Sr.).

Outlook: Jefferson enters tonight’s game as winners of two straight, and coming off a bye week to prepare for its region opener.

Two weeks ago, the Dragons rallied for 27-21 win over North Hall, led by more than 300 yards of offense from Shirreffs and some stingy second-half defense. Simonton, who had seven tackles for a loss against North Hall, leads the area with 13 stops in opponents’ backfield and averages more than 12 tackles per game. McDonald leads Jefferson with 41 total tackles.

Greene County, which is coached by former University of Georgia and NFL running back Robert Edwards, has run multiple sets this season featuring two different quarterbacks. Brown is primarily a passer, while Miller is primarily a runner, though both are versatile. The passing game has been most effective so far — the Tigers average 198 yards per game through the air, and in last week’s 26-10 loss to Hapeville Charter, they managed only 56 yards on the ground.

Prediction: JEFFERSON. The Dragons appeared to hit a groove in the second half against North Hall and are primed for a showdown with fellow 8-AA frontrunner Washington-Wilkes next week.

Lumpkin County at Walnut Grove

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: The Grove, Loganville

Coaches: Lumpkin County, Tommy Jones; Walnut Grove, O.J. Soto.

Records: Lumpkin County (0-4, 0-1 Region 8-AAAA); Walnut Grove (1-3, 0-1 Region 8-AAAA).

Key players: Lumpkin County, QB Daniel McCrary (6-1, 175 Jr.); WR/DB Jonathan Gilreath (Jr.); LB/TE Logan Head (6-2, 200 Sr.). Walnut Grove, QB Joey March (6-1, 175); RB Deleon Rivers (5-6, 170 So.); WR/CB Demarghaiy Conner (6-1, 180 Jr.).

Outlook: Lumpkin County has yet to find a way to generate offense, scoring a meager 7.8 points per game and averaging just 156.6 yards per game. The bit of offense the Indians have created, however, has been led by McCrary, who is 37 for 78 through the air with 372 yards and two touchdowns.

The defense is allowing 37.5 points per game and 378.5 yards, but the secondary seems to be a bright spot where Gilreath has two interceptions, but the offense has not been able to come back and capitalize on many chances like this.

Walnut Grove has not seen the kind of scoring needed to win either, but March and Rivers are able to find ways to move the ball for the Warriors. March is 31 of 65 with 412 yards and three touchdowns, and Rivers has 330 yards rushing and four scores on 76 attempts.

Conner adds yet another option for the offense as the primary target for March with 16 receptions, 243 yards and a touchdown.

Conner also contributes on defence with 14 total tackles.

Prediction: WALNUT GROVE. The Indians have not found ways to make their strategies work, and Walnut Grove can send the Indians to their first 0-4 start since 2005.

North Oconee at Jackson County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Panther Stadium, Jefferson

Coaches: North Oconee, Terry Tuley; Jackson County, Benji Harrison.

Records: North Oconee (2-1, 0-0 Region 8-AAA); Jackson County (3-1, 0-0 Region 8-AAA).

Key players: North Oconee, RB Zantravious Shields (5-8, 162 So.); QB Nick Colvin (6-2, 195 Sr.); TE Zack Sims (Sr.). Jackson County, RB/DB Dustin Scott (5-9, 165 Sr.); QB Kyle Daniel (6-2, 190 Sr.); WR Xavier Harper (6-1, 180 Jr.).

Outlook: The Panthers roster includes a number of different offensive catalysts for the team, including Harper, the current leading receiver in the area with 19 receptions for 376 yards and six touchdowns. He is complemented by Scott, who has 301 yards and three scores on 44 attempts this season.

Daniel has the ability to execute well with this offense and is third in the area so far in terms of passing with 56 completions on 86 attempts, 726 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Panthers’ defense is paced by area leaders Evan Breakspear with 49 tackles and two tackles for loss, Daivon Ledford with 46 tackles and two for loss, and Chris Foster with 41 tackles and five for loss. The defense only allows an average of 16.5 points per game so far this season.

In terms of numbers, the two teams’ defenses are evenly matched with North Oconee only allowing an average of 16.6 points per game, but they have shut out their past two opponents 49-0 and 44-0. However, the Titans score an average of 35.6 points per game, while Jackson County’s average is 28.3

Prediction: NORTH OCONEE. The Jackson County defense, although good, will not quite be able to match up against a defense that has shut out its opponents in two of three games this season and a high-scoring offense.

Commerce at George Walton Academy

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Keith Henderson Stadium, Monroe

Coaches: Commerce, Marvin Justice; George Walton, Don Williams

Records: Commerce (4-0, 0-0 Region 8-A); George Walton (3-1, 0-0 Region 8-A)

Key players: Commerce, RB/DB Terrick Ramsey (5-9, 165 Sr.), RB Jamal Browner (6-0, 220 Sr.), QB Drew Whitfield (5-9, 160 Jr.). George Walton, RB Stanley Williams (5-9, 189 Jr.), QB/S Hunter Rice (6-2, 186 Sr.), RB/S Nick Waters (6-0, 190 Jr.).

Outlook: Commerce has had little time to bask in last week’s emotional, come-from-behind, 18-17 win over Rabun County. Tonight, the Tigers travel to George Walton for a top-10 showdown that could have far-reaching implications in Region 8-A.

The ninth-ranked Bulldogs are led by Williams, a speedy Georgia recruit who played the last two seasons at Apalachee. His status, however, is questionable for tonight after he left last week’s 37-0 win over Warren County with an ankle injury in the second quarter and did not return.

Injuries have been an ongoing issue for George Walton; in the team’s only loss — 28-21 in overtime vs. No. 4 Aquinas — Rice did not play. Losing Williams, who has run for 642 yards this season, could be an even bigger factor.

Seventh-ranked Commerce has the area’s leading ground game with an average of 347 yards per game, led by Ramsey (451 yards, 12.2 avg.), Browner (327 yards) and Whitfield (310). The Tigers defense is ranked fourth in the area, yielding just 116.5 rushing yards and 107.8 passing yards per game.

Prediction: COMMERCE. As they have all season, the Tigers will keep the ball away from a potentially dangerous opponent with a grinding ground game. If Williams plays, doing so will be all the more crucial.

Washington-Wilkes at Union County

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Mike Colwell Memorial Stadium, Blairsville

Coaches: Washington-Wilkes, Robby Robinson; Union County, Brian Allison

Records: Washington-Wilkes (4-0, 1-0 Region 8-AA); Union County (3-0, 0-0)

Key players: Washington-Wilkes, QB Buck Robinson (6-1, 190 Sr.); RB/OLB Tomarkus Young (6-0, 170 Jr.); ILB Brian Hardigree (5-11, 170 Sr.). Union County, QB T Bentley (6-0, 190 Sr.); WR Lalo Rivera (5-11, 180 Sr.); LB Chase Barnett (5-7, 185 So.).

Outlook: Union County enters Week 5 with one of the top eight offenses and defenses in the area, averaging 378.3 yards per game, while allowing 243.7 yards and 11.7 points per game. The defense proves to be the team’s strength with Barnett as one of the top eight in the area in tackles with 41 tackles and three tackles for loss. He is accompanied by Matthew Spiwak on defense, who has 28 tackles and two tackles for loss. Clay Burnette and Jonah Whitmer add yet another defensive threat for the Panthers in the secondary, both with two interceptions so far.

The offense is driven by Bentley, who had 263 yards and two touchdowns on 42 rushing attempts, and is 37 for 58 passing with 507 yards and four scores. His primary target is Rivera, who recorded 193 yards and a touchdown on 14 receptions this season.

Washington-Wilkes has shutout their opponent twice in four games this season and only allowed six points in each of the other two. Hardigree leads the defense with 30 tackles.

The Tigers’ offense is led by Robinson who had 744 yards and 10 touchdowns so far this season. The leading receiver is Mark White, who has 13 carries for 193 yards and two touchdowns. Young is a third offensive weapon with 275 yards rushing.

Prediction: WASHINGTON-WILKES. The Tigers’ offense will be able to overcome the Panthers defense and hand them their first loss of the season.

Peachtree Ridge at Habersham Central

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Raider Stadium, Mount Airy

Coaches: Peachtree Ridge, Mark Fleetwood; Habersham Central, Stuart Cunningham.

Records: Peachtree Ridge (1-3, 1-1 Region 7-AAAAAA); Habersham Central (0-4, 0-2 Region 7-AAAAAA).

Key players: Peachtree Ridge, WR Joe Horn (5-10, 180 Sr.); OT Orlando Brown (6-8, 360 Jr.); QB Bryson Sellers (6-1, 185 Jr.). Habersham Central, RB Sydnee Mulligan (5-11, 190 Jr.); TE/DL Zach Rhyneer (6-3, 280 Sr.); RB Brandt Rinehart (5-11, 190 Sr.).

Outlook: The Raiders are still struggling after losing Kevin Ellison and a large group of other talented seniors last season, and they have been thrust into a region full of playoff-caliber teams. The combination has not been fruitful for Habersham Central, who is only scoring 5.5 points per game but allowing 37.8.

The young team looks to experienced players like Rhyneer and Rinehart for leadership, but the team has faced adversity finding players that fit their needs skillwise in certain positions.

Prediction: PEACHTREE RIDGE. The Lions can get their second win of the year against a Habersham Central team that is continuing to adjust to a new region and a less-experienced roster.


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